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Michael Gove apologises for misleading the Commons over which schools have been earmarked for rebuilding

Picture 2 Education Secretary Michael Gove came to the Commons last night to apologise profusely for having released misleading information earlier in the week about which schools previously earmarked to recieve funding for new buildings are having it reviewed. He told the House:

"With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to apologise to you and to the whole House for the way information accompanying my oral statement on Monday was provided to all Members.

"During my statement a list of schools affected by our plans to review capital funding was placed in the House of Commons Library. I wish to apologise to you and to the whole House for not placing that list on the Table of the House and in the Vote Office at the beginning of my statement, as you reminded me page 441 of “Erskine May” quite properly requires. I further wish to apologise for the inaccurate information on the list I was supplied with and which I gave to the House."

"A number of schools were miscategorised, and for that I apologise. In particular, there were schools that were listed as proceeding when, in fact, their rebuild will not now go ahead. That confusion caused Members of this House and members of the public understandable distress and concern, and I wish to take full personal responsibility for that regrettable error.

"I also wish to apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and to the House for any confusion over the manner of my apology today and any related media speculation. In responding to press queries earlier, my Department confirmed that I was writing to those affected by these mistakes, and it was my intention then to come to the House with as accurate a picture as possible of the exact errors and to apologise for them. I have placed a revised list of schools in the Vote Office and am writing to all Members affected. I would be grateful if any Members who are concerned that schools may have been wrongly categorised were to contact me personally, so that I can ensure, with them, that the information we have been supplied with is as accurate as possible. Once again, Mr Speaker, I am grateful to you and to the whole House for granting me the opportunity to make this statement and, once again, to apologise unreservedly." 

The atmosphere in the chamber was highly charged, with West Bromwich West Labour MP Tom Watson being forced by the Speaker to withdraw his unparliamentary remark "You’re a miserable pipsqueak of a man, Gove" - although it was in response to Watson's question that the Education Secretary made it clear he was prepared to apologise in person to those affected by the errors:

"I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question; it gives me the opportunity once again to apologise to his constituents and to other parents and teachers in Sandwell for the confusion that was caused by the mistake that I made on Monday. I understand the passion that he brings to the issue, and I understand how hard he fights for his constituents. I shall be very happy to go to West Bromwich and apologise to those who have been misled by the mistake that has been made. I am more than happy to do so. As I said earlier, the mistake was mine and mine alone, and I am happy to acknowledge it."

It is certainly a welcome change from the last thirteen years to hear ministers being contrite and taking personal responsibility when their departments have made mistakes.

Jonathan Isaby

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